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Elsewhere

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall.

Aïda in Seattle: don’t mention the war!

When Francesca Zambello presented Aïda at her own Glimmerglass Opera in 2012, her staging was, as they say, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Fighter planes strafed the Egyptian headquarters as the curtain rose, water-boarding was the favored form of interrogation, Radames was executed by lethal injection.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera 2018 opens with Annilese Miskimmon's Madama Butterfly

As the bells rang with romance from the tower of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the rolling downs of Sussex - which had just acquired a new Duke - echoed with the strains of a rather more bitter-sweet cross-cultural love affair. Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s 2018 season opened with Annilese Miskimmon’s production of Madama Butterfly, first seen during the 2016 Glyndebourne tour and now making its first visit to the main house.

Remembering Debussy

This concert might have been re-titled Remembrance of Musical Times Past: the time, that is, when French song, nurtured in the Proustian Parisian salons, began to gain a foothold in public concert halls. But, the madeleine didn’t quite work its magic on this occasion.

Garsington's Douglas Boyd on Strauss and Skating Rinks

‘On August 3, 1941, the day that Capriccio was finished, 682 Jews were killed in Chernovtsy, Romania; 1,500 in Jelgava, Latvia; and several hundred in Stanisławów, Ukraine. On October 28, 1942, the day of the opera’s premiere in Munich, the first convoy of Jews from Theresienstadt arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and 90 percent of them went to the gas chamber.’

A chiaroscuro Orfeo from Iestyn Davies and La Nuova Musica

‘I sought to restrict the music to its true purpose of serving to give expression to the poetry and to strengthen the dramatic situations, without interrupting the action or hampering it with unnecessary and superfluous ornamentations. […] I believed further that I should devote my greatest effort to seeking to achieve a noble simplicity; and I have avoided parading difficulties at the expense of clarity.’

Lessons in Love and Violence: powerful musical utterances but perplexing dramatic motivations

‘What a thrill -/ My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone/ Except for a sort of hinge/ Of skin,/ A flap like a hat,/ Dead white. Then that red plush.’ Those who imagined that Sylvia Plath (‘Cut’, 1962) had achieved unassailable aesthetic peaks in fusing pain - mental and physical - with beauty, might think again after seeing and hearing this, the third, collaboration between composer George Benjamin and dramatist/librettist Martin Crimp: Lessons in Love and Violence.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Les Salons de Pauline Viardot: Sabine Devieilhe at Wigmore Hall

Always in demand on French and international stages, the French soprano Sabine Devieihle is, fortunately, becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to these shores. Her first appearance at Wigmore Hall was last month’s performance of works by Handel with Emmanuelle Haïm’s Le Concert d’Astrée. This lunchtime recital, reflecting the meetings of music and minds which took place at Parisian salon of the nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot (1821-1910), was her solo debut at the venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago is now featuring as its spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar with music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production originated with the Regent’s Park Theatre, London with additional scenery by Bay Productions, U.K. and Commercial Silk International.

Persephone glows with life in Seattle

As a figure in the history of 20th century art, few deserve to be closer to center stage than Ida Rubenbstein. Without her talent, determination, and vast wealth, Ravel’s Boléro, Debussy’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastien, Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, and Stravinsky’s Perséphone would not exist.

La concordia de’ pianeti: Imperial flattery set to Baroque splendor in Amsterdam

One trusts the banquet following the world premiere of La concordia de’ pianeti proffered some spicy flavors, because Pietro Pariati’s text is so cloying it causes violent stomach-churning. In contrast, Antonio Caldara’s music sparkles and dances like a blaze of crystal chandeliers.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final 2018

The 63rd Competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2018 was an unusually ‘home-grown’ affair. Last year’s Final had brought together singers from the UK, the Commonwealth, Europe, the US and beyond, but the six young singers assembled at Wigmore Hall on Friday evening all originated from the UK.

Affecting and Effective Traviata in San Jose

Opera San Jose capped its consistently enjoyable, artistically accomplished 2017-2018 season with a dramatically thoughtful, musically sound rendition of Verdi’s immortal La traviata.

Brahms Liederabend

At his best, Matthias Goerne does serious (ernst) at least as well as anyone else. He may not be everyone’s first choice as Papageno, although what he brings to the role is compelling indeed, quite different from the blithe clowning of some, arguably much closer to its fundamental sadness. (Is that not, after all, what clowns are about?) Yet, individual taste aside, whom would one choose before him to sing Brahms, let alone the Four Serious Songs?

Angel Blue in La Traviata

One of the most beloved operas of all time, Verdi’s “ La Traviata” has never lost its enduring appeal as a tragic tale of love and loss, as potent today as it was during its Venice premiere in 1853.

Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho at Wigmore Hall

Is it possible, I wonder, to have too much of a ‘good thing’? Baritone Matthias Goerne can spin an extended vocal line and float a lyrical pianissimo with an unrivalled beauty that astonishes no matter how many times one hears and admires the evenness of line, the controlled legato, the tenderness of tone.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis

Madness - or perhaps, more widely, insanity - in opera goes back centuries. In Handel’s Orlando (1733) it’s the dimension of a character’s jealousy and betrayal that drives him to the state of delusion and madness. Mozart, in Idomeneo, treats Electra’s descent into mania in a more hostile and despairing way. Foucault would probably define these episodic operatic breakdowns as “melancholic”, ones in which the characters are powerless rather than driven by acts of personal violence or suicide.


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Reviews

Iestyn Davies and Fretwork perform Purcell and Nyman at Milton Court Theatre, 28th May 2018
22 May 2018

No Time in Eternity: Iestyn Davies discusses Purcell and Nyman

Revolution, repetition, rhetoric. On my way to meet countertenor Iestyn Davies, I ponder if these are the elements that might form connecting threads between the music of Henry Purcell and Michael Nyman, whose works will be brought together later this month when Davies joins the viol consort Fretwork for a thought-provoking recital at Milton Court Concert Hall. »

Recently in Reviews

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22 Jun 2008

Choral Music by Dvořák and Brahms

Among the choral music of Anton [Antonin] Dvorak, the familiar Stabat Mater, Op. 58, is known to modern audiences through various live performances and recordings. »

19 Jun 2008

Mozart and Lortzing from Hamburg Opera on film

A nostalgic charm permeates these filmed productions from the early 1970s of Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, collaborations between the Hamburg State Opera and German TV director Joachim Hess. »

19 Jun 2008

Karajan opera highlights on Classics for Pleasure

The opera highlights series from Classics for Pleasure continues its recycling of the EMI catalogue with selections from two of Herbert von Karajan's recordings. »

15 Jun 2008

Plácido Domingo’s miraculous autumn

On the barren stage: a few chairs, a dark-gold hectoplasm projected on the wood panels of the acoustic chamber - nothing more. »

15 Jun 2008

See Venice and then die

For the belated Spanish premiere of Britten’s Death in Venice, 35 years after its creation in Aldeburgh, Barcelona seems a felicitous choice. »

09 Jun 2008

Songs by Henry & William Lawes

With this recording of songs by Henry & William Lawes, musical brothers who flourished in Caroline England, countertenor Robin Blaze with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny continue their exploration of early English song for Hyperion, and the results are stunning. »

09 Jun 2008

Star Power in Paris “Capuleti”

For Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi,” Paris Opera peopled its revival with plenty of star power. »

09 Jun 2008

Opera with a human heart

When the Ringling Brothers folded their tents, opera took over. Aïda with elephants, and Walküre with real horses. »

09 Jun 2008

St. Francis in Amsterdam

It is a bit hard to know what to make of Olivier Messiaen’s colossal piece “Saint François d’Assise,” beautifully mounted by Netherlands Opera. »

08 Jun 2008

Zurich Has Malibran to Thank

If you are going to produce Jacques Fromental Halevy’s forgotten opera “Clari,” I urge you to first make sure you have a signature on the contact from a superstar with the firepower of Cecilia Bartoli. »

04 Jun 2008

Joye: Les plaintes de Gilles de Bins dit Binchois

The title of this recording “Joy: the Laments of Gilles Binchois” introduces a seeming contradiction, one that plays on a contemporaneous description of the composer as "pére de joyeusetè"—the father of joy—in tension with an affinity for melancholy in his works. »

04 Jun 2008

SCHOENBERG: Moses und Aron

Even though it is one of the important operas of the twentieth century, Arnold Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron is, perhaps, more esteemed than performed. »

04 Jun 2008

Der Rosenkavalier at ENO

It is worth remembering that prior to the première of Strauss’s opera in 1911, the working title was ‘Ochs auf Lerchenau’. »

04 Jun 2008

Il Matrimonio Segreto in Brooklyn

Opera producers in quest of headlines, unable to make them from the limited number of Mozart operas available (all of them far too familiar) but equipped with the flood of attractive young singers trained to sing Mozart in conservatories (because singing Mozart does not harm young voices, and singing Verdi and Wagner before 30 — better yet, 40 — often will), sometimes turn to Mozart’s contemporary, Cimarosa, and his Il Matrimonio Segreto, to get attention. »

04 Jun 2008

Handel's Rodrigo — Ensemble San Felice, St John’s Smith Square, London

Handel’s Rodrigo, subtitled ‘Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria’ (Self-conquest is the greater victory) is one of the composer’s earliest operatic works, and rarely heard. »

28 May 2008

Tree-mendous in Chicago

Chicago Opera Theater scored a resounding success with its area premiere of John Adams’ newest stage piece, “A Flowering Tree.” »

28 May 2008

Revised Amistad makes its mark

Upon its premiere at Chicago’s Lyric Opera in 1997 Anthony Davis’ Amistad found little critical favor. Its undisciplined excesses led one writer to compare it to a high-school pageant. »

27 May 2008

Books 'n Things

Two excellent books on opera have come to hand, providing many hours of entertaining reading. I combine notice of them with a few thoughts about composer Paul Moravec’s CDs, and his forthcoming opera premiere at Santa Fe Opera in 2009.  »

27 May 2008

Merry Widow at ENO

In these days of 'concept' productions, it is rare that the curtain goes up on the first act of an opera and it looks exactly as one might reasonably expect it to. »

27 May 2008

Masterpiece Masterfully Rendered in Toronto

I can still remember my first ever “Pelleas et Melisande” in my first ever outing at San Francisco Opera during my first ever visit to that beautiful town. »

25 May 2008

A Berlin Sampler

A recent visit to Berlin’s three opera houses yielded decidedly, nay wildly varying outcomes. »

25 May 2008

HINDEMITH: Cardillac

Premiered in 1926, Paul Hindemith’s opera Cardillac is a three-act work based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s short story Das Fräulein von Scuderi. »

25 May 2008

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

In the 1983 production designed, staged, and directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, this recording of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde is a solid and well-thought performance that has much to offer. »

15 May 2008

STRAUSS: Opernszenen | Scenes of Operas.

Recorded between 1938 and 1942, the excerpts from performances of Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Arabella, and Daphne at the Dresden Staatsoper are all conducted by Karl Böhm. »

15 May 2008

Gotham Chamber Opera: Ariadne Unhinged

The Gotham Chamber Opera has been delighting opera fans on the Lower East Side for seven years now, one small audience at a time. »

13 May 2008

Les Troyens in Boston

Thirty-six years after Sarah Caldwell and the Opera Company of Boston presented the first complete staged performances in the United States, Hector Berlioz’ Les Troyens returned to Boston in triumph in a series of concert performances presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of James Levine to close the BSO’s 2007-2008 season. »

13 May 2008

Ponnelle Clemenza remains a masterpiece

Opera companies should practice historic preservation, keeping certain productions forever in the repertory because of their quality and aesthetic value. »

13 May 2008

Nono's Prometeo at Royal Festival Hall

Prometeo is so radically different that it’s almost incomprehensible heard from preconceived assumptions of what music “ought” to be. »

13 May 2008

On Venetian Opera: a new edition of Monteverdi's Ritorno, and Eleanor Selfridge-Field on Time and Opera in Venice.

Claudio Monteverdi. Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. Edited by Rinaldo Alessandrini. Urtext. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007. BA 8791. A vocal score is available as 8791a. »

12 May 2008

John Brown lives again in Kansas City

John Brown might have been a’mouldering in his grave since he was hanged in 1859, but he was resurrected — in body and spirit — on May 3, when the Lyric Opera of Kansas City staged the world premiere of Kirke Mechem’s John Brown. »

09 May 2008

Canada’s Brueggergosman makes the most of Mozart

When Toronto’s Opera Atelier asked her to sing Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo Measha Brueggergosman hesitated. »

09 May 2008

Fort Worth Opera Festival features “Angels in America”

In 2007 it was an experiment; now it’s a new summer festival firmly rooted in fertile Texas turf with a bright view of its second season and of the more distant future as well. »

09 May 2008

Spoleto USA revives opera, hall

Operas do not often get a second chance. A new work is premiered and — if it’s a co-commission — it moves on to another company or two. »

07 May 2008

Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Die Entführung aus dem Serail is too light to be a grand opera, but it makes rather grander demands of its singers than operetta could possibly bear. »

06 May 2008

Karajan: The Music, the Legend.

At the centenary of the birth of the conductor Herbert von Karajan various commemorations are occurring, an among them is the concise CD and DVD release by Deutsche Grammophon, with both discs bound into a booklet that includes a short prose tribute to the man illustrated with some well-chosen photographs from various parts of his career. »

06 May 2008

Punch & Judy at ENO

English National Opera’s production of Harrison Birtwistle’s ‘Punch and Judy’ is the company’s second collaboration with the Young Vic Theatre — following the premiere of Neuwirth’s ‘Lost Highway’ a few weeks earlier — and remarkably, also the second London production of this early Birtwistle work within a month, the previous one having been at the Linbury Studio Theatre, a collaboration between Music Theatre Wales and the Royal Opera. »

06 May 2008

The Collegiate Chorale: Jupiter in Argos

Over the years, one tried and true method of packing audiences in to the concerts of Robert Bass’s Collegiate Chorale has been to present concert opera with impressive soloists. »

06 May 2008

French Opera highlights on Classics for Pleasure

Consumers might opt for a highlights set instead of a full recording of an opera for many reasons. »

06 May 2008

THOMSON: The Plow that Broke the Plains

Naxos's DVD division has already released the performances on this disc of Virgil Thomson's scores for The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, as soundtracks for a re-release of the original films. That DVD (Naxos 2.110521) contained, as... »

04 May 2008

Ned Rorem's Our Town

Martha Graham used to say, “In order for there to be dance, there must be something that needs to be danced.” »

04 May 2008

La Fille du Régiment at the Met

When the Met presented La Fille du Régiment for Lily Pons during World War II, she sought permission to wave the Cross of Lorraine, symbol of Charles de Gaulle’s Free French, during the Salut à la France in Act II. »

04 May 2008

Minnesota Opera makes strong case for Rusalka’s greatness

Why does one so seldom encounter Dvořák’s Rusalka on stage? »

27 Apr 2008

Bruckner: Symphony no. 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (1890 [Second Version])

As difficult as it is to identify a single score as representative of its composer, Symphony no. 8 in C minor by Anton Bruckner is an essential work that may be regarded as the quintessence of his accomplishments in the form. »

25 Apr 2008

Satyagraha at the MET

Satyagraha is an odd duck to encounter if you are seeking a traditional opera-going experience or anything like it. »

23 Apr 2008

Sarasota rises above the regional

Victor DeRenzi is a man of convictions — and of courage. Given his commitment to tradition, you might call DeRenzi, artistic director of Sarasota Opera since 1982, conservative. »

22 Apr 2008

A Cut Too Far…..the new Giulio Cesare in Lausanne

With what might (if one were risking facetiousness) be termed a “false-set” of four countertenors in the cast, this was always going to be an intriguing production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare for aficionados of a voice type which has revolutionised the perception (and popularity) of baroque opera over the past 15 years. »

21 Apr 2008

The Minotaur — Royal Opera, Covent Garden

Harrison Birtwistle’s new full-scale opera, commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, is a study of isolation and imprisonment. »

21 Apr 2008

OONY Performs Puccini's Edgar

It was one of Queler’s good nights. »

21 Apr 2008

BELLINI: Norma

This production offers a different view of Norma. As Stage Director Guy Joosten explains in the introduction on the first of a 2-disc set, he wanted to give the audience “more” of what he believes the modern audience expects. »

21 Apr 2008

Berlin’s “other” opera often stellar

It is, you might say, the little opera that can. True, if it’s size of the budget, the price of tickets and the number of seats that concerns you, the Komische Oper is clearly the third of Berlin’s opera houses. »